Harsh haggle erupts over early local ballot

Harsh haggle erupts over early local ballot

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Harsh haggle erupts over early local ballot

A constitutional amendment rushed by the ruling party failed to get enough votes for approval in Parliament. Daily News Photo

The ruling and opposition parties have engaged in a fresh round of tough bargaining over a set of legal amendments that would affect the results of upcoming local elections. In a bid to take advantage of the government’s failure to amend the Constitution, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are aiming to use their bargaining chips in a most efficient way, by placing their interests at the core of negotiations.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) had earlier introduced two separate amendments to Parliament. First, a constitutional amendment rescheduling upcoming local elections to Oct. 27, 2013 rather than March 2014 was approved with 360 votes, a number below the referendum threshold. The proposal was later vetoed by President Abdullah Gül to avoid a constitutional amendment that had no significant content.

As the AKP seeks support to re-introduce the amendment, it also proposed a charter amendment on Oct. 19 that would lower the age of candidates running for election to Parliament from 25 to 18. This proposal came in addition to a legal amendment awaiting approval that would enlarge the boundaries of 29 metropolitan municipalities in a bid to increase AKP votes at local polls before the presidential elections in August 2014. While the opposition parties have each voiced different demands in efforts to capitalize on the AKP‘s need for support, ruling party officials have argued these two amendments are not interrelated.

 “These two amendments are two different things,” Nurettin Canikli, deputy parliamentary group leader of the AKP, told reporters Oct. 19. Canikli said he believed the CHP and the MHP would realize they were making a huge mistake by not supporting the amendment to drop the age of elected lawmakers to 18.

However, the CHP is not likely to back the government’s move without taking anything for themselves in return. The main opposition is proposing reducing the age to run for Parliament to 21, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the CHP, said Oct. 19. “We could be warm to a proposal [reducing the age] to 21,” he said.

Though the first round of talks between AKP and CHP officials did not bring forth any concrete results, senior government sources underlined that there could be more talks after the Feast of the Sacrifice. On rescheduling the local polls, however, Kılıçdaroğlu was firm the CHP would not endorse the idea, calling the move one made only for the personal interest of Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

A senior AKP official, Mustafa Elitaş, criticized Kılıçdaroğlu’s counter proposal on Oct. 19 and described the main opposition as insincere. “We observe that the CHP is taking a step back on this issue.

Proposals [reducing the age to be elected] to 21 aims at diluting the process and not keeping the promises they have given,” Elitaş told reporters.

‘The law will bring  federalism’

The MHP, however, drives a confusing bargaining as, on the one hand, they support holding local polls five months earlier than usual, but have accused the government of trying to physically and mentally divide the country through a legal amendment on greater municipalities. Calling the law enlarging the boundaries of the greater municipalities “the prototype of federal state model,” MHP’s leader Devlet Bahçeşi vowed to do everything he could to stop the legislation of the bill.

“The enlargement of the borders of the greater municipalities to the border of that specific province will be the last stop before [we] pass to a regional government and state model,” Bahçeli said Oct. 19 in a written statement. He also claimed this move was another translation of “democratic autonomy,” a model proposed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Meanwhile, a parliamentary commission will continue working through the weekend on the much-debated draft on metropolitan municipalities.